I once went on a hitch-hiking pilgrimage from England to Jerusalem staying in monasteries on the way. There were dozens of lessons to be learned about the spiritual life, but one of the simplest ones was the need for milestones. If you knew where you were headed for that one day it was enough. Along the French roads especially there were little stone mile markers, and each one was a little encouragement which seemed to say, “You’ve made it a little further. Keep hope. Look up. What’s around the next bend? You’ll make your goal today and eventually Jerusalem.”
Each milestone was humble and grounded. Not a great billboard or neon sign. Each one spoke of the need for perseverance and progress, even if that progress was plodding. Each milestone reminded me that I wasn’t walking in circles, that there was a destination, and that I was, slowly, but surely making my way forward. Furthermore, those milestones ought to be shared. We ought to encourage one another in the pilgrimage. We should recognize and celebrate and support the pilgrims, the plodders, the ones who persevere. We ought to point out the good, share what is positive and move forward with hope and courage and good humor. So give me the milestones.
And spare me the millstones. What I mean are the millstones that ought to be hung around the neck of those who cause scandal to the little ones before they’re thrown into the sea. I’m not shooting particularly at John Corapi here, but at all who cause scandal, no matter how small. When a Catholic misbehaves–even a little– it causes someone to stumble. The damage to the priesthood and the church when there is priestly scandal just ripples out further and further. It hinders trust, it breeds cynicism and doubt. It destroys faith. It plants seeds of discouragement and despair.
John Corapi and any other wayward priests or people are in God’s hands. I’m not throwing stones at anybody. I’m not placing millstones on anybody. I want to walk on and mark the milestones and keep my eyes on Jerusalem the Golden, and my God have mercy on my soul.